Weddings at Cape Hatteras National Seashore
General Information and Application Instructions
A Special Use Permit is required for all wedding ceremonies and vow renewals within Cape Hatteras National Seashore, regardless of the number of attendees or length of the ceremony. Most ceremonies in the Seashore are brief and simple.
Beach areas in front of hotels, houses, and businesses in the following villages on the Outer Banks (listed from north to south) are within Cape Hatteras National Seashore and thus require a wedding Special Use Permit from the National Park Service:
To apply for a wedding permit, complete the Wedding Permit Application and send it to the mailing address on the application, along with the required $100 application fee via check or money order payable to “National Park Service,” no later than 45 days prior to the event.
The $100 application fee covers the cost of administering the permit request and is non-refundable.
You will receive a response regarding your application within two weeks of receipt.
Wedding Locations at Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Certain areas of the National Seashore are better suited for wedding ceremonies than others, particularly given the limited parking resources available within the park. Our three lighthouses have different parking space availability. Please note that all of our sites are for wedding ceremonies only; we have no facilities for receptions. However, there are a number of such facilities available privately. Please check some of the links provided below. During nesting and breeding season (spring and summer), some sections of the beaches may be closed to visitors and vehicles to protect nesting species. Given the size of the Seashore (over 30,000 acres), wedding parties are always able to find a suitable spot for the ceremony. Here are some suggestions.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Situated approximately eight miles south of Nags Head, NC, this is perhaps the most accessible of the park's lighthouses for most visitors. The site includes a nice expansive grassy area, parking facilities for up 50 cars and restroom facilities. This is ideally suited for larger wedding parties. From Memorial Day until Labor Day, permits will only be issued for weddings occurring before 10:00 AM or after 4:00 PM daily.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located in Buxton, NC. This is perhaps the most famous of all lighthouses on the Atlantic Coast, and it is the tallest. Thousands of visitors visit this lighthouse on a daily basis during the summer months. While this lighthouse is open to the public from time to time, weddings cannot be performed within the lighthouse itself or on its steps and paths. Continuous public access to the lighthouse is required at all times. Parking and restroom facilities are readily available, and this area is more suitable for larger weddings of up to 25 people. However, the area is less intimate given the great number of people visiting the lighthouse on a daily basis. From Memorial Day until Labor Day, permits will only be issued for weddings occurring before 10:00 AM or after 4:00 PM daily. Larger weddings can more easily be accommodated at the beach area just beyond the lighthouse. See the information below on Beach Areas.
Immediately south of Cape Hatteras, Ocracoke Island must be reached by ferry operated by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Travel time by car and ferry averages about two hours from Nags Head, depending on the time of day. The ferry operates at different times during the day, and the schedule is published at http://www.ncferry.org/. Parking is extremely limited at the lighthouse, and the lighthouse itself is closed to the public. Because the area is immediately adjacent to wetlands and fragile grasses, this site is best suited for very small and intimate wedding ceremonies of three to twelve people. From Memorial Day until Labor Day, permits will only be issued for weddings occurring before 10:00 AM or after 4:00 PM daily.
There are a number of sites that are well suited for wedding ceremonies along the magnificent coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Just north (approximately 4 miles) of the Village of Ocracoke is the day use beach area with parking spaces for 35 cars. During the summer season, it is also a lifeguarded beach. Approximately one mile north of the day use beach is the campground with parking spaces for 50 cars. And, approximately 3 miles north of that is the pony pen area with parking for 25 cars. All provide beach access and spectacular views of the ocean.
Adjacent to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are a number of beach areas ideally suited for weddings. Entering the park and across from the visitors parking lot is a beach access that leads to a picturesque and large expanse of beach suitable for larger weddings. Most days there is adequate parking for larger numbers of people, and immediately nearby is our new restroom facility. Above that site are the stones marking the original site of the lighthouse. This area and the adjacent beach are also picturesque sites for a wedding. Past the ranger's station, follow the park road leading to the Point and a smaller parking area for approximately 15 cars. This is a beautiful and usually less populous section of beach. Most beach locations provide an excellent view of the lighthouse for special photo opportunities.
Immediately east of the Bodie Island Lighthouse is the Coquina Beach Day Use Area with parking spaces for 115 cars. The beach is very popular with visitors to the seashore. Vehicles are not permitted on the beach north of the ramp access. Restroom facilities are available, during the summer and fall months.
Permit Conditions and Restrictions
Organized parties and receptions are not permitted activities within Cape Hatteras National seashore. The park has no pavilions or shelters appropriate for such activities. Such parties are required to seek private facilities outside the park, which are plentiful in the surrounding villages.
Restrictions and requirements that apply to special permits for weddings include:
- A written permit is required for all wedding ceremonies fixing the date, time, and place of the ceremony.
- Access for other park visitors must not be impeded. Permits do not authorize exclusive use of any public lands, and the permittee must insure that the rights of the general public visiting Cape Hatteras National Seashore and its memorials are not infringed.
- Available parking is limited and cannot be guaranteed. Permittees and their guests must park within designated parking areas. Carpooling or private shuttle is recommended and may be required for some sites. Horse-drawn carriages are prohibited.
- Amplified music, CD's, radios and public address systems are prohibited. Acoustic music will be considered for ceremonies at the Seashore, but not at historical properties.
- The releasing of balloons, birds or butterflies and the throwing of rice, birdseed, flower petals or other natural or artificial material is not permitted.
- No chairs, altars, flower containers, arches, railings, ropes, torches or candelabras are permitted. Exception: elderly guests or guests with disabilities may use chairs.
- Permittees must exercise particular care to avoid disturbing wildlife and vegetation. Visitors, photographers and weddings are not permitted in undisturbed dune areas.
- All activities must stay within open trails and public areas. No weddings may be held within or upon any public park structure or its approach or steps.
- Affixing signage to existing buildings, property, signs, poles or plants is prohibited.
- All trash must be placed in onsite trash containers. If the site does not have containers or if trash volume exceeds container capacity, permittee must bag and remove trash from parklands. Permittees failing to effect such cleanup will be charged the cost for such services.
The foregoing summarizes some of the conditions set out on each permit. The actual conditions contained within the permit are binding upon the permittee. This is not a reservation system. The permit allows you to have a private ceremony in the national park. Rarely do we have two weddings at the same time, and same location. And while location is on a "first come, first served" basis, the park and its grounds are very large. Permittees are allowed to move their scheduled ceremony to another hour or park location open to the general public if weather or other conditions at the selected site makes a change desirable.
Additional Outer Banks Wedding Resources
While the National Park Service neither endorses nor promotes public or private business activities, the following sites are offered to assist you in planning your visit to the Cape Hatteras area:
Questions and Additional Information
For questions or information about permits for other types of uses, or if you have any questions about the process or your permit, please contact our Special Park Uses Coordinator at (252) 473-2111 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.